How to create a Happy Human Being.
A little blueprint for Happiness.
Imagine we had to create a Happy little Being from scratch.
Let's start afresh with an empty shell - a walking, talking and breathing cute little Being - but as of now, devoid of emotions, experiences, hobbies, a job, and all the rest of the good and bad gunk that all of us currently have in our lives.
Our job is to make it become a happy Being. Easier said then done right? Well then, what's the first thing that you might give it?
In the context of making it Happy, the most obvious one I would start with are Happy Emotions.
Ingredient 1. Happy Emotions
Well, this one is kind of like, 'Duh'. Yet let's think about this for a second. Happiness doesn't really come out of nowhere does it?
What currently makes you happy in your life? At the very base layer, it would probably be a bunch of pleasurable experiences - things that you love doing and gives you an innate sense of happiness.
So let's throw in a few pleasurable experiences for it, like:
Travelling and adventure
Having wonderful food to eat
Seeing novel and new things
Reading beautiful books
Playing sports and having hobbies it likes.
Ah, now we're getting started. Engaging in such hobbies or activities is a good way to build happiness in daily life. Our little Being might even start to feel a broader range of positive emotions beyond just being happy, including:
These are nice feelings to feel. To keep such emotions around, we would also encourage this Being to cultivate habits around these, for example:
Planning pleasurable things to do each day, almost like a Daily Vacation.
To be thankful for the things in its life.
To not let the moments pass it by, but actively enjoy them.
However, here's the thing. Inevitably, our little Being will also experience negative emotions, like sadness for example. We need to give it the ability to handle these negative emotions effectively so it doesn't get bogged down by them.
One way is to help it recognise that all emotions, positive or negative, are fleeting ones. It can be taught to accept them as they come, and then simply let them pass.
Likewise, all the positive emotions that come from the above pleasurable experiences are also all fleeting ones. They will come and go. They are impermanent. Can this Being really spend every single day doing all a bunch of fun things and nothing else?
Wouldn't it start to stagnate and get bored after awhile?
Yes, it will. It needs something a bit more.
Ingredient 2: A Mechanism for Personal growth.
Let's look back across our lives for a moment - what is it that we've done ourselves in terms of Personal Growth. What got us to where we are now?
For me, I can think of a number of ways we've engaged in this, including:
Learning, whether in schools or by ourselves.
Growing and working on our strengths.
Good, good. I think those are great ideas, and this is what we need to teach the Being now.
However, like all things that grow, it needs a starting point to work on. At the moment, this Being is still mostly an empty shell, albeit with hobbies and activities that make it happy from time to time.
Yet innate in all of us are a set of strengths - these sets of strengths are different for each of us. For example, your personal strengths might include Leadership, while mine includes Creativity.
There are actually 24 sets of Signature Strengths that Positive Psychology has found. We do best when we focus on our Top five. Which are your top five?
Let's help this being to find out what its Signature Strengths are, then give it a mechanism to help them grow.
Believe it or not, one useful way to make use of our strengths are by putting them to work in a job. No, no, not the kind of jobs that we hate and trudge to work each day.
It has to be a job that is intrinsically motivating, one where:
We know its making the best use of our time.
It's allows us to practice and hone our strengths.
It keeps us busy.
It offers us the right amount of challenge, which in turn allows us to grow.
Well now, our young friend has certainly grown hasn't it. It's now got a little job in its life that it likes doing, with plenty of hobbies and activities that gives it happiness. It's working on things it finds useful and challenging, propelling it forward in life.
That's great and all. Yet I'm just wondering, without others to spend time with, wouldn't it be a lonely experience?
Ingredient 3: Positive Connections.
We've built our factory and mass-produced many other He-Beings and She-Beings, now our little friend has got a tiny world full of others to connect to.
We have a choice here - should we make all these Other-Beings in the same exact template as our Being?
Imagine your world right now, where it's made up of millions of versions of you. Is that a good thing?
Honestly, I think I would get bored of myself quite quickly. More so, I wouldn't want to date a woman-version of myself. That's just... weird.
So let's introduce some differences. Inevitably, some of the Other-Beings will be vastly different from our Being. Our Being might even feel a mismatch in terms of personality, or even vibes, with them.
For these, let's teach our Being to learn to manage the conflict well - and learn to be comfortable around them, but not necessarily spend too much time with them.
Who then are the Other-Beings we should encourage our Being to get to know? I look back on my life and see that my best friends are like-minded individuals. What does this like-minded mean?
Hmmm, it's not limited to just personality, aspirations or hobbies.
There's something deeper. Ah, yes, I've found the word for it - Values. Values are a quality of living and being. They are what matters to us the most.
Let's help this Being to make close connections with Other-Beings with similar values, be it:
Now this is a great blueprint for finding positive connections - it encourages our Being to seek out and befriend others who also believe in the things that matters most to it.
Before we move on, let's quickly give it some skillsets to maintain these connections, including:
Learning how to deal with conflicts
Focusing on positive communication (e.g. Active Constructive Responding).
Maintaining healthy boundaries.
And when the relationships turn toxic, the knowledge to cut them off.
Okay, our Being says thanks! It's not feeling so lonely anymore with Other-Beings in its life. It's even thinking of settling down and starting a family. Great!
Now though, it's got a bunch of things in its life that's keeping it quite happy - hobbies, a job to help it grow, and Other-Beings to keep it from feeling lonely.
Yet there's a central question it's whispering to me right. What's that? Can you say it louder? Oh.
("What's the point of all this?")
Ingredient 4. A sense of Meaning.
This is a tricky one. Many very smart people have tried to tackle this, each having come to their own conclusions.
Do you have a sense of meaning in your life dear reader? What is it?
It helps when we have something to define this for us. Let me flip through some of my dusty books. Aristotle. No, too old. Confucius. Hmm, slightly too complex. Ah yes, let's go with this:
"Meaning is about serving something bigger than ourselves."
That's the definition from Positive Psychology. Hey that's what this blog is about, don't mind if I'm a bit biased!
Yet that's what years of research have actually uncovered about man's search for meaning. It's not inward-focused. It's not selfish desires. It's not about your personal dreams only.
It's about looking outward and seeing how you, as one single individual in the universe, can make a significant impact on others.
Sound grand no? Yet it doesn't have to be. That "Bigger" can be anything you deem worthwhile.
("I'm really confused".)
Who's that? Oh, that's you again little Being. No worries, here's what helps. We've already talked about this before, but it goes back to what your values are.
Values are our Why:
Why do we want to do this?
Why does it make us feel happy?
Why is it so important to me?
If you're ever not sure if something is your value, ask yourself "Why?"
("I think Wealth is my value?")
("Because it allows me more freedom?")
Why isn't Freedom your value then?
("Hmmm, but I need wealth to be free?")
Why must wealth come first?
You get my drift.
Once you've got your values, let's make them actionable, almost like a life mission statement. For example, let's take the value of "Kindness". How can you turn that into an action statement?
"To live my life kindly toward others, and focusing on helping them be happier".
Nice one Being. Wait, that's my life mission statement! You stole that didn't you? Cheeky little bugger. But yes, having that stated out clearly helps me to find different ways to live true to my meaning in life, such as:
Writing in this Blog.
Being unconditionally kind to the close ones around me.
Doing charity and volunteering work.
Being in a job that's focused on helping.
The thing is, we all have more than one value in our lives too. For example, another of my values is "Love and Family". It's useful to see your life as a portfolio of different values. They make you who you are.
You'll inevitably find meaning too if you connect your values to the various aspects in your life, be it work, friendships, leisure. It becomes a complete picture of how you're actively working on letting your meaning in life flourish!
Well now, the being we created has now reached the ripe old age of six minutes old. Unfortunately it's entering old age and is about to leave this beautiful universe soon.
Luckily for it, it has lived a happy life so far. It views its life as meaningful, full of happiness, friends and family, and a career that it has adored and felt plenty of growth.
As it looks back on its life, it's happy in the knowledge of all its...
Ingredient 5: Achievements.
These are the trophies on our life's metaphoric wall. Let ask our Being for a second...
"What do you see as the high points in your life?"
(Being rattles on for a while).
Wow, that's quite a number of achievements you have. Which ones do you think matter to you the most?
Oh, that's interesting. Can I share it with everyone else? Okay, in a nutshell they are Achievements that:
Came out of our own personal strengths.
Made our values really feel like they've come to life.
Made us feel like we've helped others in their own journey.
Made us feel like we've spent our time meaningfully.
Wow, I think you hit the nail on the spot there, Being. These are certainly great pointers in how we should look at our achievements - mind if I steal these guidelines from you?
Oh what? You have one more thing to share? Yes, please go ahead.
Ah, our Being says, rather importantly, don't just focus on the big achievements in your life. Remember to enjoy each little tiny victory too.
Gosh Being, you really got wise in your old age didn't you.
Yes tiny victories are the little achievements peppered into our lives. Despite being trivial, their cumulative impact can leave long lasting impressions on our happiness.
It's important to recognise them as they come, and build memories around them. In fact, you can try out practicing this little concept of Savouring. It's powerful habit that teaches us to pay more conscious attention to the things we are doing well, and to create lasting memories of them too.
Alright, our Being is finally heading off to its eternal nap. Thank you so much Being, I hope you've had a very happy life. Shall we just summarise the five ingredients for building a happy human being again?
Here we go, and together they are known as PERMA: